It is Norwich's smallest pub - but what is its food like?
PUBLISHED: 14:39 20 November 2018 | UPDATED: 07:54 21 November 2018
It is said to be the smallest pub in Norwich, known in equal measure for its Thai food and good beer. Lauren Cope visited the Vine Thai.
The Vine Thai was a restaurant I was desperate to like.
Its owner Aey Allen, who I’ve interviewed in the past, is incredibly charming and likeable, and a powerhouse of a woman who has created something really valuable for Norwich.
So hopes were high as a colleague and I ventured out for dinner and our first visit, after what had been a particularly long day.
The mixed starter - at £7.50 per person - was an obvious choice, and was a mix of chicken satay, na gai (minced chicken on toast) dumplings and other delightful morsels.
Served with a separate tray of dipping sauces, including soy sauce and a beautifully creamy peanut sauce, it felt like good value, had a great mix of flavours and heat and was an excellent induction into the restaurant.
Having tried it, I’d definitely look elsewhere on the starter menu next time. Between marinated, deep fried pork belly and prawns in panko breadcrumbs, there’s enough enticing options to make the eye wander.
I’ve said before in a food review that it is scientifically impossible for me to refuse eggs Benedict while out for brunch.
The same can be said of beef massaman curry while eating Thai. I can’t get enough of the meaty, spicy, creamy, nutty flavours of the dish, which has to be up there among the most comforting on the planet.
The Vine Thai’s version, for £11.95, is superb - slightly spicier than I expected, with a velvety smooth sauce, soft beef, potatoes and crisp macadamia nuts.
It was a very generous portion, and once the main contents of the curry, eaten alongside a shared portion of egg fried rice, £3.95, had been devoured I shook off my pride and finished off the sauce with a spoon. A classy moment indeed.
My colleague had the prawn green curry, for £12.95, which she said was creamy with just enough spice and juicy prawns, a “perfectly antithetic version of something often done poorly” by other eateries. High praise indeed.
She opted for a side of the chef’s special as a side - £7.50 - which is calamari tossed with garlic spring onion, coriander, rice wine and chilli.
The batter was light and crispy, and while the first couple of bites were slightly tougher than you’d like, the majority were cooked nicely.
Full, we eschewed dessert, opting instead for another glass of wine, as the restaurant quietened and our conversation continued (the poor waiter toing and froing at the restaurant’s serving hatch, just by our table, is now fully up to speed on our lives).
As you’d expect, the Vine’s drinks menu is extensive. A regular feature in the Good Beer Guide and popular with ale lovers, it’s no surprise that the pub has four real Engilsh ales on pump, as well as a range of beers from elsewhere, including fruit varieties, as well as bottled ciders, wines and whiskeys. We plumped for glasses of white wine, which were crisp and fruity (and generous).
Downstairs is incredibly homely and vibrant, with tables and bar stools tucked in every corner of its modest floor space. Upstairs has that reassuring authenticity of feeling as though you’ve walked directly into someone’s living room.
There are tables downstairs, but, being in Norwich’s medieval city centre and a particularly small building, there may be some obstacles for diners with mobility issues. I was pleased to see a dish-by-dish list of allergens and dietary requirements included with the menu - really helpful and handy not to have to ask.
Aey is incredibly friendly and welcoming, and service was prompt, but not too quick.
Clean, as you’d hope.
It’s city centre, so you’re looking at the usual parking spots - St Andrew’s, Duke Street or St Giles car parks. All within walking distance.
It’s tucked down Dove Street, a small lane up the side of the Tesco Metro by the market. Its size means you may well have walked past it before without noticing.
Prices hover around what you’d expect - £6.50 to £7.50 for starters, mains ranging from £7.50 for vegetable options up to £16. Our total bill was just over £60, which, for a shared starter platter, two mains, a side and a few glasses of wine, felt reasonable.
The curry. I’ve tried a fair few massaman curries, and this was well up there.
The Vine Thai is a great Norwich spot - loved equally by beer fans and foodies, it knows what it does well and excels in those areas. Its team are hugely welcoming, its venue cosy, its food delicious. I’d certainly recommend a trip.